The Village at the end of the Road
Join me as I take the long scenic route to Nongjrong village, literally to the end of the road.
The clouds lift a little to show the tree tops on the peak of the hill. When I think of Meghalya, I fondly recall views like this from magazines and photo essays. I stand outside the car seeing the lifting clouds in my wet clothes, clothes that were drenched a little while ago by the very same clouds. I’m in Nongjrong village, literally in the middle of nowhere, counting my lucky stars that I decided to take the difficult road here.
For my last free day in Shillong, I want to do something decidedly off the beaten track. My friend suggests a ride to Nongjrong , a village definitely way off the beaten track. With some help from her, I get a cab for the day to take me to Nongjrong and back. After spending the last couple of days with a whole gang of folks, it’s definitely refreshing for me to head out alone for the day.
The road begins to weave through a completely different landscape than the one I saw over the last week. In place of steep climbs and imposing mountain faces, I see gentle hills covered in little green patches of agriculture. I spot some cabbage patches here and there. The road is scenic and I begin to enjoy the good weather and the ride.
I first visit Laitlum, which literally translates to ‘end of hills’. This is a mesmerizingly beautiful hilltop that is shrouded in clouds when I arrive. On a clear day, my driver says, one can see the deep gorges and the long snaking path to the lush valley below. We unfortunately do not see much because of the clouds. It’s also the spot where the upcoming Bollywood movie, “Rock On 2” was shot. He takes me a little along the path down, where I see a little cable car taking supplies to and fro to the valley below.
As we amble on the hilltop, I am reminded of the eerie mist shrouded moors of the “Hound of the Baskervilles”. I half expect to come across a large growling mastiff but instead find a large group of picnickers.
After Laitlum, we return to the road to Nongjrong. The scenic rolling hills gradually give way to small villages and then soon the road starts to get progressively bad. The views get better though, offering stunning vistas of rice being farmed on the hills and long winding paths snaking from one hill to the other. At one point of time I wonder if I should have hired a tank instead of a taxi, but my fears are short lived as the road improves again. We race up the hill and enter Nongjrong.
The road literally ends in this sleepy little village and I’m wondering if my friend played some kind of prank on me by sending me to the middle of nowhere. I get off the car and am accosted by a villager who demands to know what I am doing there. I manage to explain that I just want to see the place and seeing my camera he lightens up and shows me the valley below.
Deep down in the valley below, I can see a lazy river snaking by, amid bright green rice fields. I ask him if it’s possible to go all the way down and he suggests taking the path from the end of the road. Following his instructions, we begin to climb down.
The route is extremely scenic, going straight down a few small hills. But a liitle way into the route and we wonder if this is indeed the right way. After reaching a relatively flat hill top, and seeing no clear way forward, we decide to just keep on the path we see going downhill. I reason it must eventually reach habitation and then maybe the fields and the river.
The route down is gentle and we soon reach a small cluster of houses. Continuing on the same path we soon realize our destination, the river bank is probably another hour or two away. SInce it’s already past lunch and there are clouds gathering overhead, I decide to head back up.
On the way back we find a boy plucking some wild berries off a tree. He generously gives us some to taste. The berries turn out to be a good source of strength for the way back up. We make good progress and reach back up to the flat hilltop. By now, dark clouds have gathered overhead and it looks like it will rain any minute.
And it does !!! And I curse my luck at having left my rain gear in the car seeing the wonderful weather when we started. Funnily enough, it only pours on the hill we are on, and I see bright sunlight just a hill over. But soon even that ray of light vanishes and I learn of the true intensity of rainfall in the hills.
Thoroughly drenched we make it back to the car just in time for the rains to stop. Getting the excess water out of our soaked clothes, we rest for a bit before starting the journey back to Shillong. Having had a good hike, I finally bid goodbye to the village at the end of the road.
Nongjrong is about 47-50 km from Shillong. It is best to hire a car for the day to get to Nongjrong. The route while scenic, has sections of particularly bad roads so plan accordingly. The trip is best done as a quick day trip from Shillong
What to do
You can visit Laitlum canyon along the way to Nongjrong. At Nongjrong, you can hike in the hills surrounding the village. There is also a waterfall close by that can be visited by a short hike.
When to Visit
If you detest rains, it’s probably best to visit the place either in winter or summer. The hills however are at their greenest during the rainy months. Probably September or October works out better as a time to visit.